Conspirata by Robert Harris is a work of historical fiction set in ancient Rome. A sequel to Harris’ novel Imperium, Conspirata continues the story of the life of the great orator and politician Cicero. The book begins in the year 63 B.C., when Cicero was elected consul of Rome. This was the year that he defeated the Cataline conspiracy, saving Rome from what would have been a ruinous civil war, and he appeared to be at the peak of prestige. But such things never last, especially when one has made an enemy of one of the greatest political minds of his generation: Julius Caesar.
Conspirata is a romp. Told in first person through the eyes of Cicero’s slave-secretary Tiro, the story careens from murder to political intrigue to civil unrest to domestic drama. Conspirata is tautly told and brilliantly paced, a sharp contrast to the Roman novels of Colleen McCullough (which are also fine historical fiction in their own right). Someone unfamiliar with basic Roman history and culture might find some of the details of the period’s politics and religion bewildering, but Harris makes the Roman-ness of the book secondary to the plot and characters which are utterly convincing and compelling. I found myself looking forward to every chance I had to read this book, and I devoured it quickly.